Switching your slippy maps from Cloudmade to Mapbox tiles

If you're like me, you've been using Cloudmade as a quick-and-easy source for free & attractive basemap tiles. This month's announcement that Cloudmade would be discontinuing all non-enterprise services left me looking for a reliable new tile source.

Like most of the world I've landed on Mapbox, and I'm already kicking myself for not paying more attention to them earlier (alas, I am too lazy to be a true GeoHipster). I used Cloudmade because I didn't want my basemaps tied to a particular vendor, but OSM's default tiles are kind of... ugly. Happily, I've found Mapbox's browser-based editor lets me prettify OSM data super quickly, and when I'm feeling even fancier TileMill is just awesome.

So if you're looking to switch from Cloudmade tiles (and vanilla OSM tiles are not what you want) here's a super easy quickstart:

  1. Make a free Mapbox account.

    All it takes is an email address. The "free" level gets you 3k map views/month, which is fine for mockups & small stuff.

  2. Map a pretty map.

    Use Mapbox's in-browser editor. Works great, even for artistically-impaired types like me.

  3. Grab your unique map ID.

    This will be something like <yourusername.some_unique_ID>. You'll find this on the editor page for your newly-minted Pretty Map.

  4. Yay, you have a dynamic XYZ-style map tile URL!

    Tada: using YOUR_MAP_ID from the previous step, your new XYZ-tile URL is http://{s}.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/YOUR_MAP_ID/{z}/{x}/{y}.png.

That's it. For most APIs, anywhere you previously were using a dynamic Cloudmade tile URL, you can now use your shiny new Mapbox tile URL. Go forth, and be mappy.

By @Sara Safavi